My 11-year-old daughter, Ashleigh, is a huge fan of the Harry Potter films but has never read any of the books, much to my disappointment. I have them all (although I confess that the last two are still on my TBR list). I've loaned Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to her on two occasions but she hasn't managed to get into it yet. She's funny with reading, though. She will click immediatly with certain books and read them properly, absolutely loving the experience. For other books that she thinks need a little more getting into, she abandons them far too early. Very frustrating. However, the purpose of this post is not to discuss my daughter's reading habits but to talk about our family visit to Harry Potter World near Watford the weekend before last.
It had been a birthday treat for Ashleigh and I'd originally hoped to book something close to her December birthday. However, I'd left it far too late to secure a December slot so we went for mid-March figuring that the worst of the UK weather would be long gone by then. Yeah right. It snowed! Although that was actually quite magical as we stood outside the house in Privet Drive and boarded the Knight Bus in the snow. Unfortunately this meant we couldn't walk over the model of the rickety bridge that's used heavily in the later films as it was closed for understandable H&S reasons.
If you're a fan, Harry Potter World is a must. If you're not a fan but have any interest in behind the scenes in a film - particularly one with special effects - then you'll love it too. It's packed full of sets, props, costumes and information about how different parts were made and was absolutely fascinating.
As a writer, though, one of the things that really resonated with me were the quotes on the long walkway between the building entrance and the actual studio entrance. The walls are set up as though they're part of the Marauder's Map that Harry uses to move around Hogwarts in his invisibility cloak, but the footsteps on the map are broken up with quotes.
This one really made me laugh: "Of course it is happening inside your head Harry but why on earth should that mean it's not real?" As a writer, I often talk about the imaginary friends in my head. I joke that I struggle with my memory because the world around me isn't the only world crammed into my head. At the moment, I have six works in progress so that's a lot going on in there. And, to me, my characters and their lives can seem very real when I'm in the zone with my writing.
The next quote that resonated with me was: "The thing about growing up with Fred and George [the Weasley twins] is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve." I love this. If I replace the words "with Fred and George" with "surrounded by other writers", then this is so true. Every successful published writer (whether traditionally published, indie published or hybrid) has started from nothing, has created engaging characters in an interesting setting, and has brought them to life in a way that leaves readers wanting more. When I joined the RNA, I was in awe of some of the members; authors whose books I've devoured over the years. I had a ridiculously dizzy fan-girl moment when Jill Mansell accepted my friend request on Facebook and commented on something I'd posted. Wow! Jill Mansell! Despite having seven books out which have received amazing reviews from complete strangers, I find it hard to think of myself as a successful writer (becuase I'm not successful in my mind ... not yet anyway) and it certainly never entered my head that I might have fans. I put Bear With Me on a free promotion recently and my good friend, Liz, shared it. One of her friends excitedly thanked her for the share and said she was a huge fan of my writing and couldn't wait to read it. I replied and thanked her and, bless her, she replied with a lovely response saying she'd just had a massive fan-girl moment that I'd responded to her comment. A fan! I actually had a fan! Then a former work colleague got in touch and asked if she could have a couple of dedicated copies of the 2nd and 3rd books in my trilogy for her daughter's birthday because she's a huge fan of the first book and has read it several times. I was thrilled to oblige and then had a warm and fuzzy moment when my friend said that several of her daughter's school friends were also big fans. Oh my goodness! "Growing up" as a writer with these moments, and being surrounded my those who've achieved great things, I am starting to believe that anything's possible and I think that, although it wavers at times, I do have the nerve to remain in it for the long-haul.
And this brings us to my next Harry Potter quote: "It's our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are far more than our abilities." This is an interesting one for a writer because the instant reaction is that surely it's more about ability. Yes, ability is needed. Somebody who can't come up with an interesting plot or string an engaging sentence together will (I would hope) not make it as a successful writer. There are writers out there who are incredible and make it to the big time, but there are those who are equally (and sometimes more) incredible and it doesn't happen for them. Equally, there are those who find success who aren't quite so incredible yet it happens for them. As an indie writer in particular, I am faced with choices constantly. As well as the obvious choices around the story I want to tell, I make all the decisions that a publisher would make or certainly be involved in: title, cover design, pricing, promotion, launch date, blurb and so on. I think that many of these choices are what can make a difference to riding high in the charts with brilliant sales, and bobbing along with a spattering of sales, like me. Our choices can therefore initially lead to more success than ability itself, to get those initial sales. Problem is, what's the right choice? I've had a debate recently about the title of my books and whether I should change them. I'll explore this more in a future post but I've decided that, if I'm going to make it, it's because of the quality of my writing and not because I've jumped on a bandwaggon.
And that leads me perfectly onto my final quote: "What's comin' will come an' we'll meet it head on when it does." Hagrid says this and I am not 100% sure of the context but I'm sure it will be to do with something bad. For me, I like to look at this with an optimistic head. I don't know what the future holds for my writing but while there is breath in my body, feeling in my fingers, and ideas in my head, I will not stop writing. If I'm destined not to make it big, so be it, because I didn't become a writer to make money; I became a writer becuase I can't not write.
Some money would be nice, though ... but only because the ultimate dream is to write full time and know that the mortgage and bills are paid ... with plenty of money left for books and stationery, of course.
If you've been to Harry Potter World, I'd love to know what you think of it. I loved seeing all the film sets and props but the most awesome part was at the end when you get to walk around the enormous model of Hogwarts that they use for all the external filming. The attention to detail is phenomenal and I am in awe of everyone who designed and built it. They obviously believed that "anything's possible if you've got enough nerve."
And I'll leave with a direct quote from J K Rowling. Hope there are people out there who want to listen to what I have to say!